Pure-as-a-Service: Why eliminating labour through vendor-managed SLAs is the future

Cloud Love

Paid feature Prakash Darji, general manager for the Digital Experience Business Unit at Pure Storage, tells us why the company is “trying to SaaS-ify storage behind SLAs” – and why some competitor offerings are as-a-service in name only.

Blocks & Files: How did Pure as-a-Service come into being? What were the drivers for it?

Prakash Darji: So we’ve been collecting how people use storage via data and AIOps for about seven years now. And we have been using that for support. But what if we said we can simplify customer operations further by offering SLAs? Because if you know the performance and the capacity and the expansion that everyone uses, you can actually go further than just shipping someone a box. You could ship them an outcome saying we will guarantee you some IOPS, and it’s up to us to run, operate and manage that from the cloud.

The origins of our Pure as-a-Service business start with Pure1, in terms of how we run, operate and monitor landscapes from a support standpoint. But we took that further to say if the outcome in storage is performance, capacity, availability, what are the SLAs (service-level agreements) you want? What if we could offer you protection SLAs? What if we could offer you a rebalancing SLA. Eliminating labour through vendor-managed SLAs is the future.

B&F: Can you say what Pure as-a-Service refers to in terms of hardware and software?

Darji: When you think about as-a-service, is it on-prem, is it cloud, or is – as in our case – wherever you want it to be. The approach we took was to determine the core value proposition is this data-driven SLA, where we’re running and operating. So where can we offer that?

Well, we can offer that on-premises in a customer’s data centre, where you get a reserved commit, you pay on demand, so it’s crossing the box, maybe one box or maybe three boxes. And you’re just making a commitment for a service tier – this many IOPS, this is your service tier. It could be with a managed service provider, it could be on-prem in your own data centre, it could even be with our cloud block store product in the public cloud, on AWS and Azure.

With this service-driven approach, Pure can run and operate where customers need, But it is hardware and software and our cloud SLAs and data that gives us the capability to deliver this.

The baseline that we use to deliver that SLA is Evergreen, and we think this is a huge differentiator. Our Evergreen architecture in Pure as-a-Service means that if someone needs to increase service tiers – maybe go to the next service tier, more IOPs, or increase capacity – we scale with controller upgrades via Evergreen non-disruptively, as well as scale capacity non-disruptively.

Customers can increase capacity and performance because of the underlying assets that we’re running. So let’s say you do a service tier upgrade, our resources will come and change the controller out to deliver that service care upgrade, wherever it’s at.

B&F: So wherever a customer’s applications run, in their own premises, a colocation centre, or in the public cloud, then Pure can present Pure as-a-Service to that location. And as far as the customer is concerned, it is the same Pure storage service as was, with a number of SLA components, and they can scale up or down, as their business needs dictate?

Darji: That’s right, one hundred percent.

B&F: How is this different from a subscription deal?

Darji: Well, the good news is the subscription economy has been around for a really long time. So you can decide if you want to buy a box on capital purchase, or you’re gonna buy a subscription to that box, and transfer it to Opex.

However, that’s a financial model: I’m buying Capex versus I’m buying Opex. Now, because people are trying to make subscriptions sell like services, we see the competitive landscape primarily being a packaging of financial services for that Capex to Opex conversion.

So there’s a set of competitors that is trying to offer storage-as-a-service with a combination of financial services and professional services to be able to do this. This is labour intensive and it’s actually fairly low margin because you’re repackaging professional services behind these. Also your mileage may vary in terms of what you get, because when you’re using a human to deliver something, it depends on how trained and skilled that human is, and how quickly they can get that capacity there.

On the flip side, if you look at the alternative approach of what a SaaS company would do, they would say, we’ve written software to automate this, based on data. And we’re going to make that SLA available to you. So if you sign up for ServiceNow, for example, you’re just getting a service management solution. Someone else is running it, someone else is operating it, and they’re just making it available to you.

In the same way, we’re trying to SaaS-ify storage behind SLAs to give you that capability, so that you don’t need to worry about those things. For example, you as a developer can provision API endpoints and start using and provision volumes. That’s the approach that we’re trying to drive using a SaaS-like application.

B&F: Do you provide the ability for customers to see how the service is performing against the SLAs they’ve contracted for?

Darji: Well, we had that ability with Pure1, even before we had as-a-service. We collected the data and used it internally, but because Pure1 was our customer-facing SaaS monitoring and management platform, customers can go in and see their performance usage, they can see it not only against the asset, like the box, but we’ve built subscription management where you can monitor your reserve commit, you can say, hey, this is how much I’m using on demand.

But we’ve gone further than just seeing. Pure1 also has AIOps for projecting and forecasting. So we’ve now done an application load classification, where this is a SAP application, this is an Oracle application. And you can ask, I’m going to add three more Oracle Applications to my landscape, what does it mean for the projected trajectory? And what do I need to do from a subscription standpoint, to stay in line with that workload?

B&F: Does this mean that from a customer’s point of view, the costs and the effort required to manage a storage facility is less than that required to buy a storage service?

Darji: What we are delivering is storage-as-a-service. So when we deliver that, versus them having to run and operate it themselves? Absolutely.

Sponsored by Pure Storage.